Blacksburg, VA — As a university and nation began the transition from shock to mourning one day after the deadliest shooting attack in American history, the network of more than 100 campus Chabad Houses declared a “Week of Goodness and Kindness” as a way to honor the memory of the slain. The goal of the effort, according to organizers, is simple: to translate the pain of grief into the healing of positive action.
For one week beginning this Friday, Chabad on Campus representatives will be handing out pledge cards at the campuses they serve. Students will be encouraged to pledge a good deed in the merit of those lost; the collected cards will be presented later to the students of Virginia Tech.
“Jewish tradition teaches that each person is created in the Divine image,” stated Rabbi Moshe C. Dubrowski, director of operations for the New York-based Chabad on Campus International Foundation, in reference to the April 16 carnage at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., that left 32 victims dead and more than 20 injured. “All those affected by this tragedy are in our thoughts and prayers.”
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, taught of the need to turn tears into action,” explained Dubrowski. “In the light of this horror, Chabad on Campus urges students to increase in acts of goodness and kindness.”
In the immediate aftermath of an apparent rampage by a Virginia Tech student, two Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from elsewhere in the state – Rabbi Yossel Kranz, executive director of the Richmond, Va.-based Chabad of the Virginias and Rabbi Shlomo Mayer from the Chabad House of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia – traveled to the site of the attacks to assist with the needs of the students and faculty.
And as Mayer and Kranz were busy on Tuesday coordinating the care of a victim’s body in accordance with Jewish law – Virginia Tech professor of mechanical engineering Liviu Librescu, a 75-year-old Romanian Holocaust survivor who was shot by Cho Seung-Hui while shielding his class from the assailant’s bullets – and arranging its transport to Israel for burial, their colleagues as far away as Seattle were planning Chabad’s national response.
“It’s terrible and no one should ever have to know such a thing,” said Chaya Estrin, who with her husband Rabbi Ellie Estrin, directs the Chabad House at the Seattle campus of the University of Washington. “It’s okay to mourn, it’s okay to be upset, but after crying, we have to channel our grief into positive actions.”
The University of Washington has had its own share of tragedy recently, following the April 2 murder of a 26-year-old researcher by an estranged boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.
In the wake of this week’s news out of Virginia, “many students are in a state of shock, they don’t know what to do,” said Estrin.
All the more reason, said Chana Mayer, co-director of the University of Virginia’s Chabad House, to give students a chance to positively affect the world around them.
“A little light dispels a lot darkness,” said Mayer. “It doesn’t have to be something complicated or expensive; simple good deeds are powerful things right at our fingertips.”